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Low-Cost Hydropower to Support Expansion of Niagara Falls Manufacturer of Material for Solar Industry: NYPA Power Allocation to Lead to 13 New Jobs

Contact:
Michael Saltzman
(914) 390-8181
michael.saltzman@nypa.gov

April 2, 2009

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE 

WHITE PLAINS—New York Power Authority (NYPA) President and Chief Executive Officer Richard M. Kessel today announced an allocation of low-cost hydropower to a Niagara Falls manufacturer, Precision Electro Minerals Co. (PEMCO), in support of the company’s plans to create 13 new jobs for the increased production of a key starting material for various industrial applications, including fabrication of solar energy products.   

At their meeting Tuesday, the Power Authority Trustees approved an allocation of 650 kilowatts (kw) of electricity generated at NYPA’s Niagara Power Project.  The allocation was made under the Authority’s Expansion Power Program for companies in Western New York.  

PEMCO, which has operated in Niagara Falls for more than two decades, is planning to return to service and upgrade two idled furnaces to respond to increased demand for fused silica. The material is used to make solar-panel grade silicon and utilized for other industrial products.    

“The beauty of this project is that we’re using one form of clean renewable energy for producing another, contributing to Governor Paterson’s efforts to expand New York State’s ‘green’ energy industries,” said Kessel. “These are typically labor-intensive businesses with enormous potential for spurring the economy, not to mention the contributions they make for combating climate-changing greenhouse gas emissions and improving energy security. The Power Authority is delighted to provide additional hydropower to PEMCO in support of its expanded fused-silica production.”

Abdul S. Labi, president, PEMCO, said: “We greatly appreciate the support for our expansion initiatives, and the efforts of NYPA and key state and local officials. Ours is an energy-intensive business whose major U.S. competitors, in Tennessee, enjoy low power rates. This underlines the importance of Niagara hydropower for our continued success and growth.”

Assemblywoman Francine DelMonte said: “The new hydropower allocation to PEMCO was crucial for the company to proceed with its expansion plans. I want to thank Governor Paterson, Richard Kessel and the NYPA Trustees for making this allocation possible, along with the support extended by local and state economic development agencies.  We all recognize the difficult economic times and the need to utilize available assets for strengthening the economy and putting people to work. And I can think of no better use of the low-cost Niagara power than for promoting other forms of renewable energy, as this latest NYPA allocation will accomplish.”

Paul A. Dyster, Mayor, said: “The City of Niagara Falls strongly supports the allocation of low-cost hydropower to PEMCO. The company has been a good corporate citizen during a time in which Niagara Falls has unfortunately lost much of its petrochemical manufacturing base. The allocation also supports our efforts to transform Niagara Falls into a center for manufacturing materials for solar panels, as we look for new, stable industries for employing our citizens. We’re looking forward to partnering with NYPA for bringing about additional such opportunities in the future.”

PEMCO, which currently employs 21 people, is planning to spend more than $300,000 to refurbish and upgrade the two idled furnaces and purchase additional equipment. The company currently operates two other furnaces. The furnaces produce fused silica by melting high-quality sand, with the product then grounded and crushed and classified into different fractions that are shipped as finished products.

In addition to the solar panel industry, PEMCO provides fused silica—a product that embodies a combination of strength and thermal stability—to manufacturers in the aerospace, defense, medical and recreational product industries.  

The two idled furnaces were shut down in 2004 after PEMCO experienced reduced product demand.  That led the company to relinquish an allocation of 750 kw of hydropower, which is now largely being recouped.

At present, PEMCO is benefiting from an allocation of 800 kw of Replacement Power, a second Niagara industrial power program. With Tuesday’s 650-kw allocation, PEMCO now has allotted to it a total of 1,450 kw of Replacement Power and Expansion Power, for lowering its electricity bills by hundreds of thousands of dollars a year. 

The two programs account for more than one-third of the Niagara project’s firm generating capacity and are directly linked to tens of thousands of jobs in Western New York and a total annual payroll of about $2 billion.

Last May, also in support of creating “green” jobs in Western New York, the Power Authority Trustees approved an allocation of hydropower to Globe Specialty Metals for its reopening and expansion of a facility on Highland Avenue in Niagara Falls that will include the manufacture of silicon for solar power systems. In return for an allocation of 40,000 kw, the company committed to create 500 jobs and invest $60 million in the facility.

The allocations to PEMCO and Globe Specialty Metals were supported by the Western New York Advisory Group (WNAG), consisting of the Power Authority, National Grid, Empire State Development Corp., the Buffalo Niagara Enterprise, the Erie County Industrial Development Agency and the Niagara County Center for Economic Development. WNAG helps identify qualified companies for available industrial power from the Niagara project.   

About 70 percent of the manufacturing jobs in Erie and Niagara counties are supported by Niagara power. Western New York residents also benefit from the project’s low-cost power as customers of investor-owned utilities and community-owned electric systems.  

  About NYPA:

■    NYPA uses no tax money or state credit.  It finances its operations through the sale of bonds and revenues earned in large part through sales of electricity.  ■    NYPA is a leader in promoting energy-efficiency, new energy technologies and electric transportation initiatives.  ■    It is the nation’s largest state-owned electric utility, with 18 generating facilities in various parts of the state and more than 1,400 circuit-miles of transmission lines.

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